My HG story: Kale Rayment
PREGNANCY NUMBER ONE.
I can remember the first wave of nausea that hit me. I was 18 years old, I had protected sex four days before with a guy I had been seeing on and off for years. I knew within days something wasn’t right. Within a week I could not move. If I wasn’t flat on my back without moving I was vomiting uncontrollably for over an hour and then the process would start all over again. At this point I knew I must be pregnant, how? I had no idea and what was this fresh hell? How did people do this and say it was beautiful?
For the next three weeks I laid either in my bed or on the couch unable to move my head even the slightest, choking on vomit terrified of what was happening to me. My parents were overseas at the time and I remember thinking I might die by choking on vomit and no one would ever know.
Three weeks later my doctor advised that at this point there was nothing that they could do and he recommended I terminate my pregnancy. Even 12 years later I can still remember immediate relief and thinking, he’s right, if I can not handle a little bit of morning sickness, how could I ever be a mother?
PREGNANCY NUMBER TWO AND THREE.
When I got pregnant with Lily I was overjoyed, we were going to be parents! We could hardly wait, we had just moved back from overseas and were about to get married, in my head, everything was perfect. I remember not immediately being sick and stupidly thought it was because I was meant to have this pregnancy. But six weeks to the day it hit me like a tonne of bricks. Back to not being able to move, exhaustion, Joolz waking me up in the middle of the night because I was vomiting in my sleep. He would be rolling me on my side to make sure I would not die in my sleep.
It was terrifying for us, we were so young at the time and everyone kept telling us that morning sickness was normal. My cousin was pregnant at the same time and she would make fun of me saying she had thrown up twice her whole pregnancy. I couldn’t leave the house unless it was to go to the hospital. Then the hospital trips started, not because of the sickness because everyone kept playing that off as something everyone went through. But a lucky side effect of my HG journey is kidney stones - I don't mean one or two. I pass that many and more a week! I would go to hospital 3-5 days a week for pain relief and fluids to help push the stones. I now think that’s the only reason I survived. I always claimed the morphine made me sick so I needed something with it. So when I was still vomiting after maxolon they always tried a bunch of other things. Things I now know that most HG pregnancies need.
I now wish I was more vocal, pushed more but I was just 22 and every medical professional around me was telling me this was normal. I thought I was the crazy one. I was one of the lucky ones with Lily my sickness did die down and I was able to function on just maxolon from about 26 weeks which of course I am so grateful for. I did spend the rest of my pregnancy mostly in the hospital passing stones though. My pregnancy with Harlow was much easier all around. While the sickness was awful, it tapered off earlier but again I still suffered because of the stones for the rest of it. Both of these pregnancies went undiagnosed and for the most part untreated, at some point I just shut up after everyone kept telling me how normal it was to be sick during pregnancy. I deeply regret this now but research I did myself afterwards would come to unexpectedly help me later on.
PREGNANCY NUMBER FOUR.
Joolz the girls and I were living overseas for a year and having a great time. We could hardly believe our luck, we were having adventures most weekends and spending time with family we hadn’t seen in a long time. In fact, two weeks before our lives changed my two brothers and I and our families were hanging out for the first time ever. We had never all been in the same place at once before. I was healthy (although carrying those London’s favourite foods kilos) had a great job and we had been thinking of extending our trip to at least two years. Things changed for us in an instant.
I felt really ill about two weeks after my brothers had been to stay, we were due to meet back up with them in about a week with a whole bunch of other family members to head to Alton Towers with all of the kids. We had wanted to do something really cool with all of them and more time to spend together for the adults. Everyone was really excited about it. Within days I was so sick I couldn’t move. I hadn’t kept anything down in days, I was weak and I knew I needed to get myself to hospital before things got any worse. I knew. I knew what the answer must be even though I was sure it wasn’t. The hospital asked me about my period and told me there was no way on earth I could be that sick. I tried to explain and they shot me down. I had gastro. That must be it.
I was 3 weeks and 2 days pregnant. That was my first hospital admission. Two days later I was back, this time the test was positive and I informed them I had previously had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. This time I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. I would be firm and make sure I was treated correctly. I had two kids at home this time. Unfortunately, I was at the wrong hospital. The hospital gave me one bag of fluids in a hallway, they put Cyclzine in my IV and told me to drive home. I couldn’t even stand. If you haven’t had Cyclizine via IV before, man it makes you high as a kite. I couldn’t talk, none of my limbs worked like they should and I couldn’t feel them at all. I actually didn’t even hear them tell me what they had given me because I just couldn’t process anything. But this was just the start of dangerous advice given to women with HG. I did make it home and was desperate. It hadn’t provided me any relief at all. I had taken up residency on the bathroom floor. At this point I had been lucky. My GP had had NVP in her pregnancies so she had immediately given me Ondanestron after my first hospital admission.
But here I was, on my bathroom floor unable to really move hugging the toilet bowl, praying for it to end. I didn’t know if I could go on at this point.
I can remember begging Joolz to make it end and him being devastated and not knowing what to do but to drive me back to hospital. My children were terrified, it still haunts me to this day hearing my children ask my husband if mummy was going to die. And all I could think was, will I? That could be a real possibility.
Then late one night while trying to decide if I should go back to hospital I was doing some googling about HG and came across a website. Pregnancy Sickness Support. I truly think they saved my life. I spoke with Karen the next morning and she sent me to a different hospital the same distance in the opposite direction, she helped me be strong enough “one more time” to go back and fight. And fight I did. Over the next 11 weeks I would have 15 hospital admissions, most for two days at a time. I would try around 10 different medications, swapping some in and out. I would lose 18kg. I remember coming home at 12 weeks and being on my third lot of IV steroids and unable to brush my hair, so I cut it off with the children’s scissors (crazy right? Made perfect sense when I did it.) How could I brush my hair if I didn't have the strength to lift my arms above my head and my husband had to shower me?
Around 20 weeks I started to panic, I had never been this sick before. I was still having at least one hospital admission a week. None of the consultants seemed to see me more than once, with a promise of a better plan and then nothing. At this point I couldn’t see an end. I couldn’t see how we could carry on like this for another 20 weeks. I suggested to Joolz that we just pack up and come home, terrifying itself because until HG had taken over our lives we had been happy living there with the girls. My panic was that if I didn't get any better in the next few weeks then we would be stuck in the UK with only two people close by to help until the baby was at least six weeks old and we had already been calling in lots of favours to try and keep us running that 20 weeks as is. So we decided to pack up our lives and head back to Sydney.
We arrived at 24 weeks and headed straight to my mum’s. How I survived the flight i will never know. I was medicated up to my eyeballs, had fluids the day before and went straight to the hospital for a day after landing. To say they were terrified was an understatement. Imagine a 24 week pregnant woman turning up to the hospital (luckily I had delivered Lily and Harlow there) with a medication list as long as your arm and saying “hi I need an appointment and some fluids please”. Lucky my Nephrologist was in the clinic that day and spotted me. While he did tell me I was insane for having another baby he immediately saw me. He told me then had he known I had been so sick with my first two pregnancies then the stones wouldn’t have been so perplexing to him. I didn’t have a great time at this hospital in regards to treatment this time, I was questioned every time I went in for fluids, to the point a Registar tried to cannulate me six times because she didn't think I was dehydrated because I only had ++ ketones. Eventually someone came in and saw what was happening.
Within weeks we had found a house and moved in. This was an hour away from my mums house so I changed hospital. This is where things started to change for me. I took myself off to delivery suite after calling them the night after we moved in. The registar that came in to see me, she told me she knew who I needed to see that there was a doctor there that could help me. Thinking i was beyond help, I agreed to be kind because she had tried so hard to make me comfortable and made sure I was taken care of all night.
Then I attended the appointment. I no longer had to explain everything and why I was taking all of these medications, why each one had been added or while I was still just barely surviving pregnancy at 27 weeks pregnant. She understands, she actually added another medication and she told me I didn't have to go to emergency anymore, that I could come at whatever time I wanted three days a week or more if needed, have fluids and then go home. That I didn’t have to fight anymore and they were going to take care of me. I think I cried my eyes out. I had fought so hard to make it this far with so many barriers and so much ignorance.
I wish I had found her earlier but, she and her team helped to make sure the next 13 weeks weren’t as bad as the 27 weeks before.
I did manage to survive and live to tell the tale. If you ever wonder why I’m here, this is it. My story right here. I’ve had a nurse who has wheeled me to the ward three times in two weeks ask me if I’m there for my “spot of morning sickness”. I've had a doctor yell at me for twenty minutes for taking medication that has been used for 50 years to manage NVP. I have seen the lowest lows that HG has to offer and been there to support women and seen the genuine kindness of it’s sufferers. I’ve been fully supported by one of the charities. I have been there in the thick of it with you. I have fought this fight, now I want to help you fight yours.